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Quality Management: Problem Solving – What is the cause of repeat problems?

by Chris Turley

When we talk problem solving, Repeating issues cause the most damage to customer satisfaction and the majority have two root causes.

Cause 1; Failure to identify or eliminate the ROOT cause of the problem.

Mrs T is garden proud and she particularly hates the weeds which frequent the lawn, when they appear she is quick to demand action (usually from me).
Unfortunately those demands don’t always correspond with my ‘schedule’, (particularly during the rugby or football season) and the result is a short investigation, identifying the offending greenery, followed by a ‘quick fix’ by way of a sharp tug or two, removing the weed(s) from the lawn, followed by assurances that the problem has been resolved.

In the short term, all is good….
The lawn’s free from visible weeds and I’m free to go back to my ‘schedule’.
However this improvement is all too short lived and I’m collared (usually just after kick off) as to why there are once again weeds ‘sprouting out’ all over the lawn, after I had ‘fixed’ the problem.

The answer is simple,  I failed to identify and eliminate the ROOT cause of my problem. I removed the visible signs (symptoms) of the problem but left the root cause in place to reoccur, maybe not immediately and maybe not with the same symptoms, but it will bite you again because the original conditions are still present.

Cause 2; Failure to fully embed the countermeasure.

Example (cont);
I purchased a leading brand of weed killer (not cheap) and I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time carefully spraying the repeat offenders. However I didn’t follow the instructions, and only applied it once, when in order for it to be fully effective I needed to ‘monitor the effectiveness’ and ‘re-apply where required’.
The result wasn’t pretty, not only had I caused an initial repeat of the problem by employing a ‘quick fix’, I’d told Mrs T that I’d sorted it out, now I’d spent time and money on a solution which would have worked but didn’t, causing yet more repeats and the resulting dissatisfaction, leading to a predictable and somewhat painful response.

It doesn’t matter how good your problem solving process is, if your countermeasure isn’t fully embedded, i.e. it becomes an integral part of the normal process (the norm), it will fail and cause considerably more damage and dissatisfaction.

Lean QCD can provide Problem Solving Training to practically teach you the detailed steps.

See: Cascaded Problem Solving

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